As technology advances at an ever-increasing rate, the rise of automated services has started to infiltrate some surprising areas of our lives. We’re all used to the idea of robots replacing factory workers, but what about technological alternatives to traditionally human-centered interactions like banking and financial planning? Can an automated algorithm-driven service ever truly replace a human brain? The business world doesn’t lack entrepreneurial ideas and has been venturing into automation in customer service areas at an increasing pace over the last few years.
The banking world has been quick to adopt technologies that eliminate the need for cashiers in certain branches, and even in many cases, they’ve reduced the need for whole bank branches. Cash machines have been around for years, followed by deposit machines, and Internet banking has become the norm more recently. Some new banks operate entirely online, and consumers have become used to being able to manage their money without ever seeing a bank employee. The advantage of this for customers is that banking has become much quicker and simpler; instead of having to visit a branch of your bank in person, you can manage most of your transactions from your phone or tablet. For the vast majority of the time this suits both you and the bank, but if something goes wrong or you have a complex query, you still need to be able to call on a real person who can help you solve the problem.
Financial advisors were the mainstay of this industry, knowledgeable individuals who could assess your financial situation, factor in your personal goals and ethical preferences, and suggest the most appropriate investments for you. Many companies are now offering financial services delivered by robo-advisors, which are algorithm-driven digital platforms. Rather than discussing your finances with another human being, you fill in a questionnaire, and the program delivers its advice based on the data with which it has been programmed. Like banking, this takes a lot of the hassle out of straightforward investments and financial plans. However, the input of another person is seen as desirable by many, who feel a lack of trust in robo-advisors and doubt their ability to handle anything except the most basic of tasks. The companies providing these services are recognizing this fact, and some such as Personal Capital have begun to offer clients their own personal financial advisors in addition to the automated service.
When you examine your own reactions to the idea of dealing with an automated service you may find you are reluctant to engage with the technological approach because you are used to managing your money in more traditional ways. Research has shown that younger adults are far more comfortable than their elders in using automated services because they have grown up surrounded by the electronics and software that enable automation. Humans haven’t been taken out of the equation altogether yet, but automation is becoming increasingly widespread, and the pace of change doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon.